GOP Megadonor Pushed Kentucky’s Former Governor To Pardon Convicted Murderer

Darren.Woon

A GOP mega-donor lobbied Bevin on behalf of convicted murderer twice before the former governor eventually pardoned him.

Terry Forcht, a Republican mega-donor and prominent Kentucky banker, urged former Gov. Matt Bevin to pardon convicted murderer Patrick Baker months before the outgoing governor issued his controversial last-minute order to free him, according to USA Today.

Forcht, founder of Corbin-based Forcht Bank, has given more than $1 million to Republican candidates, committees, and super PACs over the last decade.

The banker hosted a re-election fundraiser for Bevin on March 23 at his home, where he raised $33,150. Forcht additionally gave $100,000 to the Matt Bevin-Jenean Hampton Inaugural Committee in 2015.

The Republican mega-donor lobbied Bevin on behalf of Baker twice, in an August 2018 letter and again in a June 4 note. 

“I would like to renew my recommendation for [Baker] to receive a Gubernatorial Pardon. I continue to follow his story and feel he would be a good candidate. I know his family and still feel he has turned his life around.”

Although former state Rep. Denny Butler advised the Republican governor that it would be inappropriate to issue a pardon at that time, Bevin officially pardoned Baker during his last week in office. 

“The evidence supporting his conviction is sketchy at best. I am not convinced that justice has been served on the death of Donald Mills, nor am I convinced that the evidence has proven the involvement of Patrick Baker as murderer; and I am commuting Mr. Baker’s sentence to time served and providing him with a pardon only for charges associated with this conviction,” Bevin wrote. 

Baker was sentenced to 19 years in prison, convicted of reckless homicide, robbery, and impersonating a peace officer in December 2017 when he and two accomplices invaded Donald Mills’ Knox County home. 

Numerous state legislators are particularly concerned about the timing of campaign contributions and political access to Bevin related to the Baker pardon.

“I expect [Bevin] has the power to do it, but looking at the examples of people who were incarcerated as the result of heinous crimes, no, I don’t approve of them,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week, calling Bevin’s flurry of pardons “completely inappropriate.”

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